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Open Primaries May Come to Public Vote Again

Joe Kirby and De Knudson are telling the press about their intention to bring another open primaries amendment to a public vote in 2018:

Joe Kirby, chairman of the group proposing the constitutional amendment, said it would apply to primaries including those for the state Legislature, governor and congressional offices.

For example, in a gubernatorial race under the plan, there would be an open primary in which the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.

…“It’s awful simple. It’s all about fairness,” said Kirby, who lives in Sioux Falls. “Our slogan is: ‘Let all voters vote.’”

…Knudson, a former Sioux Falls City Council member, said that she thinks more and more people are becoming so disenchanted with bickering between political parties that the concept of open primaries is appealing to many across the country [James Nord, “South Dakota Voters May See Open Primaries Amendment in 2018,” AP via Pierre Capital Journal, 2017.05.09].

Kirby supported Rick Weiland’s effort to pass a non-partisan open primaries measure in 2016; Amendment V won only 44.5% of the vote last November.

Text of the new amendment is not available yet on the Secretary of State’s ballot question page, but Nord’s report suggests the differences between Amendment V and this version 2.0 would be not including county offices in the open primary (which would seem odd, given that county races are usually less partisan than the higher races) and not stripping party labels from the ballot (although Knudson’s commentary suggests a continued animus toward party activities, so I won’t count out the non-partisan plank until I see the amendment text).

I maintain my position that, from a purely democratic perspective, open primaries are fine, since they give more voters more opportunities to vote. I recognize that political parties can serve useful purposes, but I believe that parties can still perform their functions within the framework of an open primary. I also continue to believe that open primaries are useful in guaranteeing a run-off election and a winner by majority.

I endorse nothing until I see the fine print, but I welcome another discussion of the merits of open primaries.


  1. Porter Lansing 2017-05-10

    No one in SoDak wants to hear what other states do. That’s your main Republican talking point. “Keep Out Of State Ideas and Money Away From South Dakota” etc. But for research Cory, here’s what’s going on in CO legislature on this issue. Yes folks, our legislature started the same day yours did and it’s still ongoing. We passed open primaries last election but the Republicans in the congress fought implementation. Sound familiar? Typical obstruction to the people’s wishes, huh?

  2. John 2017-05-10

    Would it apply to the Constitutional offices like Secretary of State and attorney general and treasurer excetera?

    I would suggest leaving those alone because it’s hard for those offices to raise money to actually campaign and frankly do I need to see more commercials about somebody being the treasurer or the auditor

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-05-11

    Good question, John! The language in this article suggests not. Candidates for those other statewide offices don’t go to primary now; they are nominated by their parties at convention after the primary.

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